Laterna magica
BOGDAN LEŠNIK Ambi(val)ents of Marko Kovačič
BOGDAN LEŠNIK Visions of Ordinary Life
JURIJ V. KRPAN The Lost Horizon
RASTKO MOČNIK The Loving Sights


BOGDAN LEŠNIK The Ambi(val)ents of Marko Kovačič

Marko Kovačič creates ambients which conceal a significant cleft somewhere within their structure; they are homely, ordinary, all too familiar, but they nevertheless air a particular, unmistakable discomfort, though its edges are smoothed down with irony and a great deal odd tenderness, even love for what is presented to us.

‘Somewhere within their structure’, we said. The exact spot is elusive and difficult to pin. On the first level, there is the presentation as such: it is less an ambient, strictly speaking, than pieces of ambients, transplanted into the exhibition room(s), displayed, arranged into a kind of niches, incomplete wholes similar to, for example, the arrangements of individual pieces of furniture in a shop which are placed, amidst a variety of elements, so as to suggest their arrangement at home (chairs and tables, kitchen components etc.). The prototype for this kind of installation, of course, is Duschamps' use of ready-made objects, extracted from their ordinary context and placed into a gallery. However, Marko Kovačič's objects are produced, carefully and in detail. Still, the association to ready-mades is not a coincidence. Kovačič's objects are recycled, and while their ‘first’ context, the one they were first created for (or, say, their ‘original purpose’) still rings in our minds (if we follow Marko Kovačič's work, that is), these (same) objects are ceaselessly rearranged for new presentations and continually create new metaphorical contextual layers.

Allow me to attempt to illustrate the ambivalence of Kovačič's ambients with a typical if older example. In a group exhibition held in the Museum of Modern Art under the title of Slovene Athens a few years ago, Marko Kovačič participated with a metaphorical niche called Prophecy of Zeus. It was a perfectly ordinary ‘television corner’, such as exists in many a home, with all its familiar features, including a coffee table, a couple of comfortable chairs, a bookcase (the examples of socialist literature also seemed frightfully familiar, of course), and a TV set. However, the latter, the key element of a ‘TV corner’, contained a scene which might have been from another planet or a different reality, and it was not ‘on the telly’, as we say, but in it (in the box), as if some other, alien, grotesque, yet sensual and emotional form of life was in existence there.

Naturally, that TV set has been recycled. Originally, it is part of a series of ‘TV objects’ named Boxman, which have been displayed on a number of occasions, including the above exhibition; they were the main scenic element of Kovačič's video piece No More Heroes Any More; and one of them (The Ninth Circle) also features as a part of the present exhibition.

It is not only Kovačič's objects that are recycled, but also images; objects pass into images (Heroes), images become objects: a set of images at this exhibition are stills from his video Forth Into the Past, and it is through them, perhaps, that we may best experience the world created by Marko Kovačič. The heroes of this video (at least in the present writer's view) are plastoses, animated child dolls and toys which have been, by means of various interventions (fine mechanics? surgery?), transformed into monstrous creatures - yet Kovačič treats them with affection, and justly, because in a way they are more human than humans. British writer of horror Clive Barker comes to mind, with whom one cannot miss his affection for his monsters, regardless of the atrocities they commit - for it is because of their fate that they commit them and not because of a ‘will for evil’.

So far, we have only focused on two objects from The Lull Before the Storm; the shortage of space here prevents us from elaborating on all of them in detail as they deserve. Let us at least attempt to place them within the set coordinates. ‘A Game of Chess’: recycled ‘Chairs’ (part of a project called Urbanaria), recycled images on the wall, recycled prop from Heroes reminding us of the terrifying (yet humorous) massacre from the video, which perhaps represents the psychological truth of the supposedly peaceful game. Crime: a recycled object (from Katastropolis 2227), a worn shirt; a Hitchcockian scene that does not reveal whether the crime has already been or is yet to be committed, nor who the perpetrator and the victim are. Pendulum: a recycled object (Katastropolis) that immediately makes us ask: Where is the pit? What should it be like? And last but not least, Dialogue: a chair, that privileged site of the viewer, is occupied by an object (naturally, recycled: part of the Sarcophagus installation). It is as if through the installation the artist were talking to Art, which is represented by the picture on the wall, saying: The object is watching you.

(from the catalogue of the exhibition The Lull Before the Storm, Bežigrajska Gallery, Ljubljana, 1996)

go up